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Kassandra and the Wolf Paperback – Oct 1 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Karapanou writes for Kassandra, a child who may or may not be dreaming some or all of the time; who may or may not be mentally retarded; who may or may not be surrounded by monster-like adults; who may or may not be a monster herself, a psychopath in the bud. We accompany Kassandra as she kills a servant who uses her sexually, but later we find the servant alive; or maybe it's a play on the readers' concept of time. We go with the girl as she helps her uncle commit suicide, or perhaps she imagined the whole thing. Her family is upper class and the adult family members appear to have no feelings. Kassandra seems devoid of emotional attachments that cannot be explained through violence or the thought of violence. She tortures and kills a cat she loves; or maybe not: we don't know. Her grandfather ends up in an insane asylum, but perhaps not and it's a dream. Kassandra is sexually molested by Peter the servant, by a butcher, by the General, by some of Peter's friends, maybe also by her father, or the man she dreams is her father. We don't know because the narrative is "artistically" confused and confusing. The author doesn't know, either but, at least from Kassandra's perspective, almost every single male adult she meets uses her sexually at one time or another, which is statistically almost impossible, so the narrative isn't really deep and is not philosophical, because the repetitiousness of the incidents is such that the impact is lost.
Comparisons with Proust are cheap and meaningless. Other writers' laudatory comments on the back of my pb edition go for the "authentic voice of the child" vein, forgetting that a 28 year-old woman wrote the book, not a child: we simply get an adult woman's own ideas about a particular girl's childhood, and not written with much talent, either. There is nothing "authentic" regarding the voice of the little girl in this story, and there can't be. Dark literature with children as protagonists is not hard to find, starting with traditional fairy tales and proceeding with James's The Turn of the Screw (which Karapanou mentions in "Kassandra," but whose darkness and ambiguity is much better handled by a far better writer) and other dark tales, some better written than others. (See the truly original and terrifying "fairy tales" before our modern idea of childhood was manufactured and before Disney got those tales, so as to understand how children were seen before the 19th century and what adults expected of children. Also, "Centuries of Childhood" by Philippe Aries is an excellent place to start reading non-fiction about children.)
As I was reading I understood what a tremendous pulling of the leg these few pages were. Good for Karapanou, who started her literary career with this book. Bad for those of us who wasted one hour reading it.
Two stars because Kassandra does come out at times as an original voice. If only Karapanou had tried less hard at pretending that she could actually write what a child sees and feels, hers would have been a much better story.
look up Greece and the Junta.